Make a plan to succeed in school this year


A conversation between a couple of friends recently turned to the question of dark matter. Theoretically, dark matter is invisible material; a kind of invisible bond that works with gravity to hold clusters of galaxies together.

Aside from the topic itself, what was interesting about this conversation delving into astrophysics, was that the one who raised the topic was a grade 10 dropout who is currently employed as a building caretaker. This is a person who, as a child in the Caribbean, had an easy grasp of mathematical concepts. Somewhere along the way he became disengaged, but his ability and interest in matters related to mathematical functions are intact. At this point, however, we may never know if the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics has lost the benefit of yet another creative thinker.

It is an oddity of human psychological development that at a time in most people’s lives when foresight would be of great benefit, during those teen years when building the foundation for our lives is key, that we cannot generally see past the next basketball game or Saturday night at the club with our peers. That so many make it into post secondary training and education is probably more of a testament to the coercive power of market forces than it is the pull of academic pursuit.

Just in time for the start of the new school year, Statistics Canada has released a report that indicates fully 20 per cent – that is two out of every 10 – persons between the ages of 15 and 19 are not engaged in any form of formal education. The data refer to 2008 figures but have likely varied little into 2010. The frequently quoted failure rate for Black students in Toronto is 40 per cent.

To be without a high school diploma in the world today almost guarantees a path to nowhere special, regardless of a person’s native intelligence.

If you are a Black high school student in Toronto today, take a good look at other Black students in your classes. Try to imagine which of you will still be there at the end of the school year. The hard figures say four out of 10 of you won’t be there for high school graduation.

The measure of a student’s success in the most standard sense will be found in the grades he earns. But the real standard for success has to be determined by the individual. So if you are a student facing this new year at school, begin now to set out your own markers for success. Resolve to ask for the help you need to get your assignments done and to better understand what you may be having difficulty with.

One of the strategies that successful students use is that they ask for help to further their already keen understanding. Students who do well enjoy the feeling of success and that makes them desire to do better. It is difficult to want to do more if you have never experienced the satisfaction of succeeding in a particular area. So set a goal for a measure of success.

Another strategy is to balance your study time. Recent research into study habits found that people retain more if they vary their study environments. If studying at home starts to feel stale and boring, going to a coffee shop or the library are good alternatives.

Even with all of that, the truth is some people have to first drop out of school to realize that they need to be there.

A note on the lingering trauma of 9-11…

On the 9th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on American landmarks in New York City and Washington D.C. America has not yet begun to make peace with it, so that history is repeating itself in the aftermath. Tension between religionists has increased and it’s like the McCarthy Era redux. In one New York City incident, a cabdriver, when asked, confirmed to his passenger that he was Muslim. He was then stabbed by the passenger. Too, a growing number of anti-Obama-ists believe the U.S. president is Muslim and out to reform America. In Florida, a small church group’s woefully misguided plan to burn a copy of the Koran on September 11 in protest has set off a firestorm, while many Americans question the wisdom and the timing of the plan to construct a mosque steps away from ground zero in NYC.

The Crusades took place over two centuries, starting in the 11th Century CE. One has to wonder if we aren’t regressing 1,000 years back in time.

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